As you can already tell, we reached Smoky Mountain Nat'l Park today! We started the day with a big breakfast of omelettes and hash browns at the lodge restaurant with Blue Fox, Ladyfish and Stingray. Ladyfish will be staying behind to try and heal her plantar fasciitis which flared up yesterday. She was limping pretty badly all day. I hope she gets back on the trail soon, because I'll miss her. There's not too many females on the trail, and especially not many our age. We did meet a new female hiker yesterday named Somewhere, but I can tell she's moving slower than we are.
After hitting the trail, it wasnt too long before we were walking along the road that crosses Fontana Dam. This was new to us. We walked right on the road for probably 1.5 miles. We finally went into the woods again and began steadily climbing. This was going to be a big climbing day. We needed to end up at Mollies Ridge Shelter for the night, which sits just below 5000 feet.
This park requires thru-hikers to stay in the shelters, but if they fill up, then you can tent. We definitely prefer tenting. We chose shelters for the week that are about 12 miles apart, but once we get up high today, the trail stays up on the ridges, soshouldnt be quite as bad the rest of the week.
We hiked steadily up, and came to Shuckstack Fire Tower right on the top of a mountain it as old and rickety, but still solid, so I climbed it and took some great pics of the view. At the bottom of the tower, we took off boots and rested in the sun a while, and ate some gorp, before putting on dry socks and hiking on.
We continued on, and before long, Keith spotted a bear down the hill quite a ways on our right it was running away, and got over a ridge before I could see it. From then on, we hiked very quietly, trying to see other bear, but no luck.
We came upon a couple who were originally from India, letting us know there a good spring just of the trail. A previous hiker had spelled out 'water' with twigs on the ground also, with an arrow to the left. The girl and I visited while the guys got water. They live in Austin, both work for Dell, and had taken a week off to backpack for a week through the park. They had really heavy packs and were struggling. The girl had bear bells on her pack. She is the first hiker we've seen with bells, as most hikers here want to see the bears, not scare them away. We encouraged her to put it away, but also gave her a trail name - Bells. She seemed pleased with that.
We hiked on, and came upon the prettiest mountaintop covered with tiny white and pink flowers and birch trees. There was also the coolest tree! I'm sure that fairies come there to play.
After a long, challenging final uphill, we finally reached the shelter, and met our first Ridgerunner, Carl. He is responsible for 4 shelters for the thru-hiker season. He's been doing it for 10 years. He let us know that the shelter wasn't quite full, but he expected it to fill up so we would probably be able to tent. We waited around, but there was still 2 bunks open when we set up our tent. If a Ranger comes through, we could get a ticket, but we are taking our chances. It is quite a bit chillier tonight, so the down bags should finally feel good. It's just been way too warm at night so far for our bags.
- Steady and F100
Location:Mollies Ridge Shelter, mile 176